Shri Surendralal G. Mehta’s association with Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan dates back to the days of Dr. K. M. Munshi, since when his father Shri Girdharilal Mehta extended his munificence and patronage Mehta extended his munificence and patronage to the institution of which he later became the President, a position Shri S. G. Mehta himself now adorns.
Shri S. G. Mehta (born 1937) was inducted into Jardine Hendrson Limited, a Company which had a large number of Europeans working at various levels covering Jute Mills, Tea Gardens, Coal Mines, Paper Packaging, Insurance, Engineering manufacturing mining machinery and shipping and other agencies. Sri Mehta rose upto the post of Managing Director of Jardine Henderson Limited, and in 1988 he became its Chairman. He was also closely associated with the Pharmaceutiecal Industry and was the Chairman of Organon India Ltd. He was Chairman of APE Belliss India Limited, which manufactured Steam Turbines in collaboration with the Rolls Royce Group of England. He was a Director of Shalimar Paints Limited and was associated with Indian Chamber of Commerce as also Bengal Chamber of Commerce & Industries.
Shri Mehta is a sportsman and a knowledgeable follower, particularly of football and cricket. He is a Trustee of Mumukshu Bhavan, Varanasi, and Sri Lakshmi Narayan Mandir Trust, Kolkata. He was President of Gujarati Education Society, Kolkata, and was also associated with many Gujarati Institutions of Kolkata. He is the founder Chairman of the G. L. Mehta Foundation, which provides free medical help to the poor. For many years Shri S. G. Mehta was a Trustee of the B.S.Mehta Trust of Kolkata which runs hospitals, Sanskrit Ved Vidyalaya and offers other charities.
Shri S. G. Mehta’s outlook on life, amiable and endearing disposition, scholastic aptitude, detached philosophical proclivities, his intense interest in capturing the ancient culture and its ethos delving deep into history and logic, and aboulute religiosity are traits, a precious heritage acquired, all of which he has inherited from his illustrious father.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan-that Institute of Indian Culture in Bombay- needed a Book University, a series of books which, if read, would serve the purpose of providing higher education. Particular emphasis, however, was to be put on such literature as revealed the deeper impulsions of India. As a first step, it was decided to bring out in English 100 books, 50 of which were to be taken in hand almost at once. Each book was to contain from 200 to 250 pages and was to be priced at Rs. 1-12-0.
It is our intention to publish the books we select, not only in English, but also in the following Indian languages: Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam.
This scheme, involving the publication of 900 volumes, requires ample funds and an all-India organization. The Bhavan is exerting its utmost to supply them.
The objectives for which the Bhavan stands are the reintegration of the Indian culture in the light of modern knowledge and to suit our present-day needs and the resuscitation of its fundamental values in their pristine vigour.
Let me make our goal more explicit:
We seek the dignity of man, which necessarily implies the creation of social conditions which would allow him freedom to evolve along the lines of his own temperament and capacities; we seek the harmony of individual efforts and social relations, not in any makeshift way, but within the framework of the Moral Order; we seek the creative art of life, by the alchemy of which human limitations are progressively transmuted, so that man may become the instrument of God, and is able to see Him in all and all in Him.
The world, we feel, is too much with us. Nothing would uplift or inspire us so much as the beauty and aspiration which such books can teach.
In this series, therefore, the literature of India, ancient and modern, will be published in a form easily accessible to all. Books in other literatures of the world, if they illustrate the principles we stand for, will also be included.
This common pool of literature, it is hoped, will enable the reader, eastern or western to understand and appreciate currents of world thought, as also the movements of the mind in India, which, though they flow through different linguistic channels, have a common urge and aspiration.
Fittingly, the Book University's first venture is the Mahabharata, summarized by one of the greatest living Indians, C. Rajagopalachari; the second work is on a section of it, the Gita by H.V. Divatia, an eminent jurist and a student of philosophy. Centuries ago, it was proclaimed of the Mahabharata: "What is not in it, is nowhere." After twenty-five centuries, we can use the same words about it. He who knows it not, knows not the heights and depths of the soul; he misses the trials and tragedy and the beauty and grandeur of life.
The Mahabharata is not a mere epic: it is romance, telling the tale of heroic men and women and of some who were divine; it is a whole literature in itself, containing a code of life, a philosophy of social and ethical relations, and speculative thought on human problems that is hard to rival; but, above all, it has for its core the Gita, which is, as the world is beginning to find out, the noblest of scriptures and the grandest of sagas in which the climax is reached in the wondrous Apocalypse in the Eleventh Canto.
Through such books alone the harmonies underlying true culture, I am convinced, will one day reconcile the disorders of modem life.
I thank all those who have helped to make this new branch of the Bhavan's activity successful.
It has been a tradition, pioneered by the founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kulapati Dr. K. M. Munshi, that each issue of Bhavan' s Journal and its sister publications carry a message from the President of Bhavan, relating to the objectives of the Bhavan's Mission and to education, Indian Culture, values and traditions. Our country, inspite of its plethora of differences in appearance, dress, food, language, customs, races and an amalgam of religious faiths and beliefs, has maintained a distinct, all encompassing identity of its own. The unity in diversity is the essence of Indian Culture. Munshiji was a visionary. He was a creative thinker and great writer. He used to touch upon the myriad facets of our ageless culture and eternally valid values in his Kulapati' s Letters.
On assuming the office of President of Bhavan, in order to continue to maintain the link between Bhavan and people, I felt it was my incumbent duty to revive this tradition. The task called for writers' skill, scholarship and depth of knowledge of scriptures. I am neither a writer or a scholar. Being fully conscious of my limitations in these areas I had to seek help from my colleagues in Bhavan. I am particularly greatful to the Central Bhavan's Director,
Shri P. N. Santhanagopal for his great help with his timely and well reserched inputs. I must emphasise that I have consciously limited myself to conveying my personal reflections on various matters. They are, therefore, not intemded to be epistolary search or comments relating to modem education, spirituality and materialism. They are merely my humble attempts to affirm my faith and belief through modem science and rational approach.
The person who really has inspired me to convey my thoughts through writing has been Shri H. N. Dastur, Executive Secretary and Director General of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. I greatly admire his inimitable style of writing which is natural, lucid and has a smooth flow. He is always amazingly clear in his thoughts. He is a proven leader, with activities of Bhavam expanding and magnifying many-fold under his leadership.
But for Shri Dastur and Shri Santhanagopal, it would have been very difficult for me to carry this onerous responsibility. I would like to express my gratitude to them and thank them for making my task much easier.
Bhavan's work is God's work is an oft-heard quote from Kulapati Munshi. Few but veteran insiders know that three generations of one exemplary industrial family from Kolkata have taken this role of God's chosen angels to not only keeping the Bhavan's flag aloft and fluttering all over India and across the globe; it is no so much out of philanthropy as in the total dedication of their lives and mission in the service of the Bhavan. Back in the beginning of the 1970s, the Bhavan went through a concatenation of crises - both financial and administrative -threatening the very existence of the Bhavan. From then on and ever since, the family of Mehtas of Kolkata brought the Bhavan back to robust health and then held it aloft as India's premier institution promoting culture, art and literature - both classical and modern - till today Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan is recognised internationally as India's foremost beacon light of culture, learning and wisdom.
The current President of the Bhavan, Shri Surendralal G. Mehta, has added many new dimensions to the family's contribution to the Bhavan with his regular column "From the President" in Bhavan's Journal; the write-up covers an astonishing range of subjects from India's scriptures like the Gita, Vedas, Upanishads to comments of the present its iIIuminous effulgence over the millennia. Simultaneously, the subjects also cover current day happenings around the world -and India in particular -from the point of view of someone who rolls into one ancient India's scriptural heritage and modern India's industrial growth and vitality. Bhavan has brought out a selection of these highly enlightening writings in a book form. Even a casual turn of the pages of the book will show the range of scholarship, learning and respect for all that is best in India's history and tradition. Shri Surendralal Mehta draws inspiration from the Kanchi Mahaswami to affirm: "The Puranas are the magnifying glass of the Vedas" to drive home the point that the "Puranas are more than mere history". They contain lessons in Papa and Punya and the choice of stories and narration are such as to bring people closer to the path of Dharma. There is no story, writes Shri Surendralal Mehta "that do not contain some moral lesson or other". The book mirrors India's glorious past and confident present in one broad sweep by a man who is proud of his heritage and prouder of the India of today both as a witness and star performer. If Bhavan today remains untouched by the dust and dirt of the political environment, corruption and seeming sloth, it is due to the presence and role of men like Mehtaji. Inspiration has never come so easy and pleasurable as from such works.
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